A smattering of hearty fans and a sopping pep band braved the deluge last night to watch the No. 11 Cornell men’s lacrosse team host No. 4 Syracuse at Schoellkopf Field. Soggy, slippery conditions made cutting on the turf difficult, and the downpour made long passes inadvisable. But, despite of the game’s slowed pace, this annual battle between the New York’s lacrosse juggernauts hardly lacked action.
Syracuse (8-1) drew first blood in the contest, taking a 4-1 lead by the end of the first quarter, but Cornell (5-3, 2-1 Ivy) rallied in the second, and the first half ended with Syracuse up, 7-5. Both teams traded goals throughout the second half with equal frenzy, with sophomore Joe Boulukos and senior Dave Pittard each contributing three scores to lead the Red, while senior Steve Vallone tallied four for the Orange. But Cornell never got closer than one goal, and the game ended 12-10. Prior to this loss, Cornell had beaten Syracuse in the teams’ prior two meetings in Ithaca. The third time was not a charm for the Red, however, which now stands 32-56-1 against the Orange all-time.
“We just never got momentum going or a burst,” said Cornell head coach Jeff Tambroni. “Once they got up, we were climbing uphill the rest of the game. And you pick your poison with their team. They’re just too good to take away only one or two of their guys and still win.”
Chants of “Let’s Go Red!” followed the Canadian and U.S. National anthems just before the game’s first faceoff, which senior Scott Raasch won for the Red. The Cornell offense controlled the ball in the Syracuse zone temporarily but turned it over on a missed pass. Vallone wasted little time before capitalizing. He scored on an unassisted shot that whizzed past Cornell goalie Brandon Ross 1:25 into the first quarter.
Raasch recovered the ball at midfield after winning the faceoff, and the Cornell offense kept pressure on the Syracuse defense until a slippery pass again resulted in a turnover.
“The weather caused a lot of unforced errors,” Tambroni said. “Inclement weather doesn’t suit Syracuse’s mindset because they’re used to playing in a dome or further south, but it got in our heads tonight, too, and it showed in our inability to make plays.”
The next Syracuse strike happened at 7:39 in the first quarter when Sean Lindsay converted a turnover into an unassisted goal — his first of three — bringing the score to 2-0. Syracuse managed to win the ensuing faceoff, but gave the ball to Cornell, which got in the game for the first time when senior co-captain Andrew Collins fed junior Kevin Nee, who scored from only a few yards out on a wrist shot past Syracuse netminder Jay Pfeiffer.
Cornell won the next faceoff but Syracuse recovered and sent the ball downfield, where Jarett Park hit Zach Wallace on the left side on the net, where he slipped one into the Cornell goal, increasing the Orange lead to two again. Almost immediately after the goal, Nee received a penalty, giving the Orange a man-up situation. The Orange’s offense took two shots on goal, one missing wide left, while the other found Ross’ net. But the third shot made it, as Lindsay put a rifle past Ross at 11:35, which ran the score up to 4-1.
While Cornell’s offense seemed spread apart, far around the arc of the goal, the Orange’s attack was able to penetrate the Red defense, creating close shots. With 25 seconds left in the first quarter and Cornell in possession, Tambroni called a timeout to strategize. Boloukos started with the ball when the Red took the field, dodging his way toward the goal, but his shot flew high, and the Orange closed out the first stanza with the ball.
After the brief pause, the squads switched sides and the weather worsened, the intense downpour and encroaching fog all but blocking the view from the stands. But Red senior Ian Rosenberger, taking a pass from Collins, still had a clear view of the goal, as he found the back of the Syracuse net 2:14 into the second quarter, making the score 4-2 in favor of Syracuse.
Junior attack Sean Greenhalgh made it a one-goal game less than a minute later when he got on the board for the first time with a wraparound goal off a pass from senior Tim DeBlois at 3:16.
Syracuse responded at 4:02, when Vallone took a pass from Michael Powell in front of the Cornell net and put it in for the score, making the game 5-2.. “I felt good shooting today,” Vallone said. “And, if we didn’t get a goal the first time, we kept trying at it.”
Following several passes, Boloukos nearly closed the gap with a shot on goal, but he missed wide. Pittard hit the mark after picking up the rebound, however, scoring his first goal of the game, an unassisted tally at 6:51 to make it a 5-4 contest.
Though within reach, Syracuse slipped out of Cornell’s grasp again after Greenhalgh got a 30 second penalty for holding, which gave the Orange a man-up advantage. The Syracuse attack, which was 9-for-27 in extra-man situations entering the game, took advantage, as Lindsay scored off a helper from Brian Nee.
The goal led to a rapid series of Syracuse shots following the faceoff. Several missed wide, and one split Ross’ legs, hitting the back of the net, but the shot was called back because Syracuse was in the crease.
Another barrage ensued after Cornell turned the ball over again, but Ross made save after save to keep the ball out and the Red in the game. Ross’ stops allowed the Red to take control, and Boloukos converted, taking the ball to the net unassisted at 12:39, bringing Cornell within one.
Cornell’s proximity did not last long, as Syracuse’s Nee slithered his way around and in front of the Red’s net, knocking an overhead bouncer past Ross at 13:21.
After recovering a turnover, Cornell took possession for the half’s final 30 seconds, during which the Red put three shots on net before both teams sloshed to the Schoellkopf lockers.
“It’s tough when you play hard and get close but just don’t score,” Boulukos said. “We were there so many times. It gets frustrating.”
Though equally disappointed with the team’s offensive production, Tambroni did credit the defensive unit with keeping the game close.
“We were getting some good looks at the cage, we just couldn’t score,” he said. “I did feel that the defense played well, though. I wasn’t disappointed with how they played.”
The rain abated to start the second half, and Cornell came out of the blocks roaring following the intermission. Though Syracuse put two shots on Cornell’s net within the first 90 seconds of the second half, Boulukos scored the stanza’s opening goal after he took an assist from Collins 15 yards in front of the net and rifled one past Pfeiffer at 1:57. Ross continued to play well in goal, however, stopping the initial two shots and a point-blank bullet from Vallone. But the senior from Corning, N.Y., had better luck on his second attempt less than a minute later, as he slid an unassisted tally past the Cornell goalie 5:35 into the third period, making the game a two-point affair, 8-6.
The Orange added another tally 25 seconds later when senior attack Michael Powell scored unassisted six minutes into the third, extending the lead to three. “It’s always challenging defending against Powell,” said senior co-captain Tim DeBlois. “I’ve played against him a few times, and I tried to keep my stick on his gloves, but he’s the best attack in the country.”
After Syracuse started early on the faceoff, Cornell took the ball, but Tambroni — animated on the sideline — called a timeout to compose his team. The call worked, and Cornell scored just moments later, when Pittard passed to Boulukos, who put a shot into the back of the net at 6:44, making the score 9-7. The Red struck again at 11:48 when Pittard took a feed from junior Justin Redd on the right side of the goal. The tally brought the game within one, 9-8, but, more importantly, sparked the Cornell team and fans.
The emotion sullied quickly, however, as Syracuse capitalized on a man-up advantage after DeBlois was penalized for holding in his own end. Vallone, taking a feed from
Powell, slung a shot past Ross for the quarter’s last goal, and Syracuse entered the final quarter up, 10-8.
The final 15 minutes of the game opened with nearly as much physical play as either team had dished out in the game’s first 45 minutes combined. But the Red’s hits did not slow the explosive Orange, who scored when Powell, unassisted and weaving his way through the Cornell defense, struck again on a lightning-fast shot 3:55 into the quarter.
Keeping pace, Cornell quickly rebounded, scoring less than 30 seconds after Raasch won the faceoff. The shot came off the stick of senior Mike Riordan, who was fed by Collins near the left post at 4:19. Again, the Red came within two, and chants for both teams grew louder as the clock ticked down with score standing 11-9 in the visitors’ favor.
With 5:02 remaining and Syracuse on a man-up penalty, Ross made a sliding save to keep the Orange at bay. But Powell added his third goal of the game when he beat Ross high at 11:13, bringing to score up, 12-9.
Cornell kept it close in the final minutes, however, as Pittard put in his third and final goal — a low sidearm shot — past Pfeiffer with 2:19 left of the clock. The Orange responded with a timeout.
Play resumed with Syracuse controlling the ball and the clock. As the ticker on the scoreboard dipped below 30, Ross gave the Red one last breath of inspiration when he left the goal to level a Syracuse attack with a crushing blow, but his effort went for naught, as Cornell failed to score again, and the Orange hung on for the 12-10 victory.
“We needed to convert on four of our six man-up opportunities, and we only got one. That would have put us in position to get close, especially with one timeout left,” Tambroni said. “Ross did his job and made saves, but when you take 42 shots and only come away with 10 goals, you’re not shooting very well. Anything could have happened in the game, and we just didn’t get it.”
Archived article by Everett Hullverson
Sun Assistant Sports Editor